Luke Rhodes made it to the final eight in this year's MasterChef: The Professionals. The senior sous chef at Halifax Hall in Sheffield talks to Lisa Jenkins about his culinary education and his experience of filming the competition during furlough.
Where did you start your hospitality journey?
At Sheffield College in 2010 on a three-year professional chef diploma, with three of the best lecturers in the industry: Len Unwin, Mick Burke, now retired, and Neil Taylor. I passed with a distinction, helped by my working during the course at the one-Michelin-starred Old Vicarage in Ridgeway with chef Nathan Smith. Once I qualified I worked at Cutlers' Hall in Sheffield as chef de partie, then my wife, who's a qualified pastry chef, and I went off to Australia to work.
What did you learn in Australia?
We arrived in Australia on a one-year working visa and based ourselves in Fremantle in Perth. I was exceptionally lucky to land a job with Tom Syvret at his restaurant Char Char, a three-gold-plate restaurant serving high-volume food. He showed me how to cook meat properly and I honed my cooking skills to a high standard. Tom sponsored me for another year.
What brought you back to the UK?
We were missing our families and came back to surprise them all on Christmas Eve in 2015. At that time, the food scene in and around Sheffield was changing and I took on a role at Red's True Barbecue, which had just opened in Sheffield. Barbecue is a hard cuisine to learn and I worked there for a year as sous chef.
How did you find yourself at Halifax Hall?
I first worked at Halifax Hall in 2016 for a year and a half. Jess and I got married at the end of 2017 and shortly after that I opened a restaurant with my dad, called Carnivore in Crystal Peaks, Sheffield. Unfortunately, it was the right business in the wrong location and we couldn't sustain enough footfall to make it successful. I then worked with Chris Mapp at the Tickled Trout for a year or so and then made my way back to Halifax Hall in 2019 as senior sous chef.
How did Masterchef: The Professionals come about and how did you find the whole experience?
Jess entered me without me knowing and most of the filming and competing happened while I was on furlough. The show has given me a massive confidence boost. It allowed me to showcase my style of food, my classical training and my passion for rich and flavoursome ingredients. It also meant I met two amazing chefs – Alex Webb and Bart van der Lee.
Meeting Monica Galetti, Marcus Wareing and Gregg Wallace was incredible too – when would I have ever met them otherwise? Not to mention the millions of people who watch the show and then want to come and try my food. We've had so many bookings for the New Year linked to seeing me on the programme.
What advice would you give to other chefs thinking about entering?
I'd say just do it. it's the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's so rewarding. The pressure is ridiculous, but just keep a level head. Go in with an open mind and learn from the judges' feedback. Wherever you end up in the competition, to just be on the show is such an achievement.
Halifax Hall is owned by Sheffield University but run as a standalone business. It's a listed building, with a restaurant, event space and a boutique hotel located on the west side of Sheffield, within the University of Sheffield's Endcliffe Village.